We left off in our last blog exploring how to biblically move from discouragement to praise. However, when the discouragement will not lift and there is a prolonged season of constant hopelessness and despair then you could be experiencing severe depression.
Some believers are truly experiencing deep depression. These dear brothers and sisters in Christ feel that there is no hope. They believe it is impossible to keep going. They may even feel that God has abandoned them. In his book “Out of the Blues,” Wayne Mack defines severe depression this way:
“A permanent spirit of heaviness or gloom that affects, controls and dominates every area of a person’s life.” – Wayne Mack
This is more than just a Monday morning time of discouragement. This type of depression extends into months and even years and is debilitating. Ministry leaders and other believers can experience this level of depression.
In Psalm 32, David clearly describes himself in a deeply distressed emotional state. “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” (Psalm 32:3,4) He describes his body wasting away, probably from not eating. He also said that he experienced heaviness day and night. This describes an unrelenting despondency from morning until evening. These are common descriptors of a deeply depressed person.
In 1 Kings 19:3-10, the great prophet Elijah is described in terms that indicate a season of severe depression. After experiencing unparalleled spiritual victories, he is found running for his life in fear, hiding in an isolated wilderness, not eating, not trusting God, and not wanting to go on living…all signs of deep depression.
David and Elijah eventually responded to God in faith and were able to find emotional, physical and spiritual healing. In David’s case, he expressed throughout the Psalms that he had to overcome depression multiple times. However, if severe depression is left unaddressed, it will have devastating physical, emotional, behavioral, intellectual and spiritual effects on the one experiencing the depression and those that love them.
Warning Signs that Should Motivate You to Take Immediate Action
In his book, Didn’t See it Coming, Carey Nieuwhof gives a precise list of how to detect depression and burnout.
- Your passion fades.
- You no longer feel the highs and lows.
- Little things make you disproportionately emotional.
- Everybody drains you.
- You’re becoming cynical.
- Nothing satisfies you.
- You can’t think straight.
- Your productivity is dropping.
- You’re self-medicating. (This might involve overeating, overworking, sexual addictions, drinking, impulsive spending, or even drugs.)
- You don’t laugh anymore
- Sleep and time off no longer refuel you.
If you or someone you know can answer yes to most of these warning signs, it is urgent that you take action.
1. Contact your pastor or a biblical counselor that you trust. They can begin to help you accurately understand and identify the causes of the depression in order to begin the healing.
2. In most cases, a complete physical and blood panel will be required. This can reveal chemical imbalances and other physiological causes that could be contributing to the depression. There is no doubt that physical maladies such as hyperthyroidism and low glucose levels can affect moods. These imbalances must be stabilized.
3. If there are more complex personality and mental disorders, then it will be important to seek the appropriate medical professional for help. Do not try to go it alone. Do not let pride or embarrassment hinder you from seeking the help you need to address the physical and mental issues so that you can live a life that is pleasing to God.
However, even if a physical malady is found that can be contributing to the depression, they are never an excuse for sinful behavior.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Great progress can be made in stabilizing our emotions and living by faith rather than feelings if we will respond before God and others with humility, honesty and trust. God has provided doctors with the knowledge and medical advances to help treat disorders that cause severe depression. Take responsibility and seek help.
Take the time to pray and analyze if you just need spiritual renewal, a change in diet, exercise, and accountability to godly friends or if you truly need to reach out for help in order to avoid a physical and spiritual crisis.
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:” (2 Corinthians 9:8)